By Bev Netzhammer
Advanced Master Gardener, Purdue University
Q. I enjoy your gardening Q&A and would like to get your opinion about growing okra. Our okra grew OK, but after it bloomed, most of the blooms rotted and fell off. The wife and I like okra, and we'll appreciate any help you can give us. - Charlie Campbell, Griffin, Ind.
A. Okra is a real southern belle, requiring hot temperatures to perform well. Last summer was cool and gray in the early months of the growing season, so the flowers formed, but were not properly pollinated and eventually dropped off. Try planting okra two weeks after you set out tomato plants.
Q. Do you have information about potato bugs? I cannot get rid of them. What can I use? - Kenneth D. Brown, Bringhurst, Ind.
A. Colorado potato beetles feed on tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and eggplant. The adult is a yellow beetle about three-eighths inch long with five black stripes on each wing cover. The larva is reddish with a black head and legs, and two rows of black spots along each side. Overwintering adults frequently begin feeding on potato foliage as soon as it is above ground. Adults and larvae both feed on the leaves. Recommended insecticides to control them include Bacillus thuringiensis, carbaryl (Sevin, etc.) and diazinon. Organically, you can hand-pick the adults off the plants and destroy them before they begin to lay their orange-red eggs on the undersides of leaves. Make sure you clean up all garden debris each winter to reduce overwintering sites.
Q. We are thinking about doing some remodeling to our home. The front porch we want to tear off is home to three clematis vines and a huge trumpet vine. The clematis are as big around as your thumb. The trumpet vine is 35 feet in height, and the thickest part of the vine is the size of a man's forearm. This vine is my husband's baby. It's 12 years old. Is there any way we can safely transplant these vines? We would appreciate any advice you could give us. - Lisa Moser, Bluffton, Ind.
A. Transplant the vines in early spring before much growth occurs. First, to make transplanting more manageable, cut the vines back so only several feet of topgrowth remain. Clematis can usually be cut back to the ground, but I suggest leaving some of the vine in place so you can see which shoots have survived. Dig the roots out carefully. Try to dig a ball large enough to hold together so you maintain soil contact with the roots. Take great care not to break the woody stem where it joins the roots. Sometimes the vine will still come up from the roots, but you have a better chance of success if you don't break the shoot.
Don't cut the trumpet vine back to just the woody stump. Leave some of the vine from which leafy tissue emerged. This could be a large project! Again, dig a rootball and plant all the vines as soon as possible. Cut out any dead material after the vines have resumed growth. Although the plants may look fine, take special care of them throughout the growing season. The plant is trying to reestablish the balance of roots to shoots and needs regular water.
Q. Two years ago, I planted a large amount of black-eyed Susans in a round concrete silo foundation. The foundation is 10 feet across, faces west, and in the summer is in sun or light shade. I put in new dirt with some peat moss. The flowers never get brilliant in color like most I see. In fact, just as they start to flower, the flower browns all around the outer edges and dies. The flowers never really develop. What is happening to my beautiful coneflowers? Please help me! - Sharee Hunt, Whitestown Ind.
A. I suspect the answer has something to do with the silo foundation. Can water drain out of the bottom, or does it tend to hold water? It's also possible the concrete foundation could be pulling too much water out of the soil. Is the soil temperature unusually warm from solar collection, or perhaps too cool? Was the silo ever used to store fertilizer or some other material that could have leached into the soil? How deep is the soil? What's underneath it? The problem you describe could be due to botrytis, but it's hard to say without further information about your creative planter!
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